Mark Barenberg

Mark Barenberg

  • Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law

J.D. (magna cum laude), Harvard Law School, 1982
M.Sc. (highest honors), London School of Economics, 1978
B.A. (summa cum laude), Harvard College, 1977

Areas of Specialty

Labor and Employment Law
International Labor Rights
Constitutional Law
Global Economic Institutions
Legal and Political Theory

Mark Barenberg is one of the country’s leading professors of labor law and a longtime teacher of constitutional law. He has been on the Columbia faculty since 1987, and is currently the Isador and Seville Professor of Law and the director of Columbia’s Program on Political Economy and Labor Law. He was chosen professor of the year for excellence in teaching by the law school’s Student Senate. He has served as a visiting professor at Yale; has taught at the Universities of Rome, Tokyo, Beijing, Cologne, and Amsterdam; and co-directs and teaches in the Columbia Summer Program in U.S. Law, held each summer in the Netherlands. Since 2015, he has held the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Amsterdam.

Professor Barenberg has degrees from Harvard College (summa cum laude), the London School of Economics (highest honors), and Harvard Law School (magna cum laude), where he served on the Harvard Law Review. Prior to teaching at Columbia, he taught international political economy and labor history in Harvard’s Social Studies program, and then practiced for four years in the fields of constitutional law, labor law, and international law at the firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Krinsky and Lieberman.

Of his numerous book chapters and law review articles, he is best known for two book-length monographs: “The Political Economy of the Wagner Act,” Harvard Law Review, a work of revisionist legal history and political economy drawing on oral histories and primary archives, showing that the New Deal labor policy envisioned a corporatist political economy undergirded by labor unions spanning entire nationwide industries; and “Democracy and Domination in the Law of Workplace Cooperation,” Columbia Law Review, a pioneering work in critical legal theory and political economy.

His most recent publication is “From Social Democracy to Democratic Socialism,” a chapter in an anthology he edited, Labor and Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2022). His current project is a book on the legal infrastructure of capitalism, labor, and democracy, and of an envisioned transition to democratic socialism.

In addition to his scholarly writing and teaching, Barenberg has been an advocate and activist for the rights and empowerment of workers in the United States, Cambodia, Canada, China, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and other countries. He routinely collaborates with students in his legal representation and advising of international organizations, governments, and worker organizations, and supervises students in externships with those entities.

Barenberg has represented, advised, or drafted legislation for the International Labor Organization (the U.N. agency that promulgates international labor law), the U.S. State Department, the Obama administration, the Democratic Party Congressional Caucus, Sen. Sherrod Brown, and various state and local governments, including the New York City Council and members of the New York State Legislature.

Barenberg also has assisted worker organizations in many sectors, including agriculture, transportation, garment production, building services, health care, restaurants, warehouses, the fashion industry, global export manufacturing, and government agencies. He has represented or advised the AFL-CIO, UNITE, SEIU, and other national unions, as well as many local unions and grassroots worker centers. Recently, he developed seven projects assisting workers in their response to COVID, and supervised more than 70 Columbia students on those projects.


  • Mark Barenberg and Angela Cornell, eds., Labor and Democracy, Cambridge UP,  2022
  • "A New Labor Law for Deep Democracy:  From Social Democracy to Democratic Socialism,” (Mark Barenberg and Angela Cornell, eds.), Labor and Democracy, Cambridge UP,  2022
  • "Minimum Fees for the Self-Employed: A European Response to the ‘Uber-ized’ Economy?" 22 Col. J. Eur. L. 193 (2016) (with E. Grosheide)
  • "Comparative Labor Law Scholarship," 16 Peking University Law Review 216 (2015)
  •  "International Labor Indicators: Conceptual and Normative Snares," (Anne Trebilcock and Adelle Blackett, eds.), Handbook on International Labor Law,  2015
  •  "Widening the Scope of Worker Organizing: Legal Reforms to Facilitate Multi-Employer Organizing, Bargaining, and Striking," Roosevelt Institute Policy Papers,  2015
  • "L’“Obamacare” nel prisma delle dottrine costituzionali della Corte Suprema," 35 Giornale di Diritto del Lavaro e di Relazioni Industriali 227 (2014)
  •  "Constitutional Dimensions of U.S. Social Insurance in the Wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Review of the Affordable Care Act," 3 European Journal of Social Law (2014)
  •  "Securing Labor Rights in Global Supply Chains: Linking Private and Public Enforcement," (S. Garwood, ed.), Product Life-Cycles:  The Production, Consumption, and Disposal of Everyday Items,  Kumarian,  2013 
  •  "Sustaining Workers’ Bargaining Power in an Age of Globalization: Institutions for Meaningful Enforcement of International   Labor Rights," Agenda for Shared Prosperity, Economic Policy Institute, Version 2.0,  2010
  • "Legitimacy and Capacity in Private Labor Monitoring" (Jeffrey Hirsch, ed.), Compensation, Work Hours and Benefits: Proceedings of NYU 57th Annual Conference on Labor,  2009
  • "Trade Remedies to Enforce Workers' Rights in China Do Not Violate WTO Rules," (Jeffrey Hirsch, ed.), Compensation, Work Hours and Benefits: Proceedings of NYU 57th Annual Conference on Labor,  2009
  • “Toward a Democratic Model of Private Labour Monitoring,” (B. Bercusson and C. Estlund, eds.), Regulating Labour in the Wake of Globalisation, Hart, 2008
  • “Legitimacy and Capacity in Private Labor Monitoring,” (Jeffrey Hirsch, ed.), Proceedings of NYU 57th Annual Conference on Labor, 2008
  • “Corporate Social Responsibility and Labor Rights in US-Based Corporations,” (M. Feher, ed.), Non-Governmental Politics, MIT, 2007
  • “The Impact of the Free Trade Area of the Americas on Democratic Governance,” (Dani Rodrik, et al., eds.), The FTAA and Beyond: Prospects for Integration in the Americas, Harvard University Press, 2004
  • “Workers: The Past and Future of Labor Law Scholarship,” (M. Tushnet and P. Crane, eds.), Oxford Handbook of Legal Scholarship, 2003
  • “Enforcement of International Labor Rights In United States Law,” Comparative Law and Politics Review, 2002
  • “Private Monitoring of Labor Rights in Global Supply Chains: Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States, Worker Rights Consortium Reports,” 2001–2002
  • “Coordinated Decentralization in Supranational Labor Regimes: Lessons from U.S. Labor Federalism,” (D. Esty and D. Geradin, eds.), Regulatory Competition and Economic Integration: Comparative Perspectives, Oxford University Press, 2001
  • “Labor Federalism in the United States: Lessons for International Labor Rights,” 3 Journal of International Economic Law 303, 2000
  • “Constitutional Constraints on Redistribution,” Columbia Journal of European Law, 1999
  • “A Critical Mapping of the Law of ‘Social Dumping’: Lessons from U.S. Federalism,” 1996
  • “Democracy and Domination in Labor Law: From Bureaucratic to Flexible Production,” 94 Columbia Law Review 753, 1994
  • “The Political Economy of the Wagner Act: Power, Symbol, and Workplace Cooperation,” 106 Harvard Law Review 1379, 1993

Remarks and Testimony

  • “Corporate Social Responsibility in the U.S.: Effectiveness and Legitimacy,” European University Institute, March 2009
  • “Can Private Experimentation Reinvigorate Public Regulation? The Case of U.S. Labor and Employment Law,” European University Institute, March 2009
  • “Labor Rights or Human Rights? Conceptual Frameworks,” Columbia Law School, February 2009
  • “An Institutional Architecture for Bilateral, Regional, and Multilateral Enforcement of Labor Rights,” Economic Policy Institute, February 2008
  • “International and Domestic Constraints on State and Local Sweatfree Ordinances,” Columbia Law School, April 2007
  • “The Privatized Fight for Workers’ Free Association,” Columbia Law School, February 2006
  • “Monitoring Systems to Enforce Wage and Hour Settlements,” Columbia Law School, February 2005
  • “International Governance: Global Labor Rights,” Columbia Law School, January 2004
  • “Labor Rights in Trade Agreements: The US-Cambodia Bilateral Agreement, Appel Conference on Regulation of Foreign Direct Investment,” Columbia Law School, March 2003
  • “Transnational Regulatory Networks: Labor Rights,” University of Zurich, December 2003
  • “The Impact of the Free Trade Area of the Americas on Hemispheric Governance,” Harvard University and Inter-American Development Bank, June and December, 2002
  • “Emerging Forms of International Labor Regulation,” Columbia University Seminar on Globalization and Social Movements, October 2002
  • “Public and Private Mechanisms for Promoting International Labor Rights,” Commission on International Labor Rights, Geneva, January 2002
  • “Labor Rights as Human Rights,” University of Amsterdam, July 2001
  • “Engaging Corporations in Dialogue on Human Rights,” Harvard University, June 2001

Professional Experience


  • Hon. Eugene Nickerson, Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York,  Judicial Clerk, 1982-1983
  • Rabinovitz, Boudin, Krinsky and Lieberman, Associate, 1983-1987
  • Harvard University, Social Studies Tutor (taught undergraduate seminars on U.S. Labor History and International Political Economy), 1979-1982.
  • Peking University, Visiting Professor of Law, Fall 1995
  • Yale University, Visiting Professor of Law, Spring and Fall Terms, 1997
  • European University Institute, Visiting Scholar, Summer 1999, Spring 2009
  • University of Amsterdam, Distinguish Visiting Professor of Law, 2015-present
  • UNITE, Consultant, 1998-2008
  • Service Employees International Union, Consultant, 2006-2010
  • Worker Rights Consortium, Member, Board of Directors and Advisory Council, 2001-present
  • International Labor Organization, United Nations, Independent Expert, 2004-2005
  • AFL-CIO, Legal Representative, Petitions and Briefs to the President on Enforcement of Workers Rights Under the U.S. Trade Act, 2004 and 2006. 
  • Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Legal Consultant, 2005-2008
  • U.S. Department of Labor, Consultant, Research Report on Formulating Indicators of Compliance with Labor Rights Provisions in U.S. Trade Agreements and Trade Legislation, 2009-2011
  • European Journal of Social Law, Editorial Board, 2011-2014
  • White House, Summit on Worker Voice, Speaker, 2015
  • Model Alliance, Member, Board of Directors and Advisory Board, 2019-present


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